Small Cities

Is Obama's Urban Focus Bad News for the Rest of the Countryside?

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To much of the media, Barack Obama is the ultimate dream president, a sophisticated urbanite whose roots lie in top-tier academia and big-city politics. This asset could also become a glaring weakness, blinding him to the fundamental aspirations for smaller places and self-government that have long animated the American experience.  read more »

NEW GEOGRAPHY SPECIAL REPORT: America’s Ever Changing Demography

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America’s demography tells not one story, but many. People concerned with looking at long-term trends need to familiarize themselves with these realities – and also consider whether these will continue in the coming decades.

Losers and Winners  read more »

Housing Downturn Moves Into Phase II

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The great housing turndown, which started as early as 2007, has entered a second and more difficult phase. We can trace this to Monday, September 15, 2008 just as October 29, 1929 – “Black Tuesday” – marked the start of the Great Depression. September 15 does not yet have a name and the name “Black Monday” has already been taken by the 1987 stock market crash. The 1987 crash looks in historical perspective like a slight downturn compared to what the world faces today.

On September 15 – let’s call it “Meltdown Monday” – the housing downturn ended its Phase I and burst into financial markets leading to the most serious global recession since the Great Depression. Indeed, International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn now classifies it a depression.  read more »

Oregon Fail: With Hard Times Ahead for Business and Real Estate, It's Time to Look Small

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There is something about Oregon that ignites something close to poetic inspiration, even among the most level-headed types. When I asked Hank Hoell recently about the state, he waxed on about hiking the spectacular Cascades, the dreamy coastal towns and the rich farmlands of the green Willamette Valley.

"Oregon," enthused Hoell, president of LibertyBank, the state's largest privately owned bank, from his office in Eugene, "is America's best-kept secret. If quality of life matters at all, Oregon has it in spades. It is as good as it gets. It's just superb."  read more »

Public Pension Troubles Loom for State and Local Governments

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We have watched with trepidation as the stock market declines and along with it the value of our retirement accounts. Yet with our personal accounts, it’s our own problem. When it comes to public pensions, it’s the taxpayer’s problem. Underfunded pensions could cut two ways, leading to much higher taxes and/or cuts in government spending.  read more »

Oregon’s Immigration Question: Addressing the Surge in the Face of Recession

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The men huddle outside the trailer, eyeing the passing traffic. Handmade signs stapled to telephone posts speak for them: “Hire a Day Worker!” The site, a fenced-in lot at Northeast MLK and Everett Street, was launched in 2007, a testament both to Oregon’s recent immigration boom and lack of federal reform.  read more »

What Way for the Stimulus? Post-Industrial America vs. Neo-Industrial America

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As a result of the economic crisis, there is a broad consensus in favor of large-scale public investment in infrastructure in the U.S., both as part of a temporary stimulus program and to promote long-term modernization of America’s transportation, energy, telecom and water utility grids. But this momentary consensus masks the continuing disagreement on whether the U.S. government can legitimately promote American industries, and, if so, which industries. This is a problem for infrastructure policy, because different national infrastructures correspond to different national economic strategies.  read more »

The Dawn of a New Age in the War on Poverty

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An article published in the Chicago Tribune on June 29, 1992 is entitled “The Great Society’s Great Failure.” It profiles the Inez, Kentucky family that appeared in the famous front porch photo that launched LBJ’s War on Poverty in 1964. Suffice it to say without revealing the particular gory details of their thwarted lives, the family’s fate was as dismal as the outcome of the War on Poverty. Mike Duncan, an Inez banker and now chairman of the Republican National Committee – battling to retain his position – put it mildly: “The War on Poverty did not succeed.”  read more »

Scrap Zoning; Legalize Great Places

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Crisis offers opportunity. With real estate in a freefall, there is an opportunity to lay the foundation for a more prosperous and sustainable American landscape.

If only there is the vision and political will.

What is the single most significant change that can be made in every town and city in America? One that would aid economic development, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, foster healthier lifestyles, reduce dependence on foreign oil, protect open space and wildlife habitats, and reduce wasteful government spending?

Scrapping zoning codes.  read more »

Hyde Park, St. Louis: Are We Almost There Yet?

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Among potential titles for this article about the Hyde Park neighborhood of St. Louis, I played with The Archaeology of Stasis. My husband suggested It’s Not Happening Here. But neither seemed right. Both were too depressing to describe a place where people are working hard for change. I wanted a title that suggested a lot of hard work, but hope nonetheless.  read more »